The Notwist have always been pioneering their own sound, walking a trail of songs across genres toward something definitively new and distinctly them. Yet the German born band are never running from their previous creations but rather toward the next and in doing so have crafted a series of personal yet impeccable records that warmly thread together the far corners of independent music. Simply speaking, the Notwist make this careful and banging, private yet pop, post-everything music for the movie going on inside you.
Their latest full length Close To The Glass is yet another courageous leap into the sky of songs. It is a catchy and unpredictable marriage of playing your heart out on an instrument and the magnetic pulse of precise programming. While the band always creates music ripe with authenticity and mood, we find them now defining their edges with no shortage of bravery or beat.
As romantic as it is robotic, Close To The Glass is a bottomless collage; part pop song, part science, part band, part story telling and all Notwist. The sturdy glue between the layers of Close To The Glass is their new found synergy as a band. No longer co-writing parts, Markus Micha and Martin have finally found their human form and in some ways, at last, have become The Notwist. Along side Max and Andi, they write, re-write and record songs as one, tapping into the energy they possess on stage, and naturally arriving at the band all their exploratory recorded music had cut out for them.
Close To The Glass is The Notwist’s first album for six years and the break has been worth it, for this record proves that throughout their many genres and sounds, they’ve never lost their knack for pioneering unique, experimental electronic-flavoured rock.
Title track Close To The Glass is a collage of experimental, synthesised sounds blended with deadbeat vocals. The song starts with unusual percussion sounds which are instantly captivating. It’s such a strange track that you can’t help but love it. It’s a complete mish-mash of everything which shouldn’t work but does.
The Notwist have recently premiered their new single Kong which is taken from Close To The Glass. It’s irresistibly upbeat and a complete contrast to the title track. The track, driven by its beat and anthemic guitar chords, is The Notwist’s homage to 90’s indie-pop. The lyrics tell the true story of a young Markus and his family trapped in their home by a flood, dreaming as hard as he could about being saved by superheroes as the water rose around them. The eponymous Kong is, according to Markus, “a mixture of King Kong and Superman”, swooping in to rescue the desperate young boy and his family from disaster.
The Notwist have also recently released the video for Kong. The animated visual, directed by Japanese film-maker Yu Sato and featuring illustrations from Tim Divall, tells the true story of the flood. Little did Sato know when making the video quite how scarily apt it would be when released – for us in the UK at least.
Into Another Tune is a song with synthesised string accompaniments building a dramatic and crackled melody. The vocals also have a slight distorted effect adding an atmosphere to this already charming track, “I’ve been trying/Too many times to break free/I’ve been lying/Too many times to break this/Stop/Tonight/And all of it suddenly breaks…”.
The second half of Close To The Glass feels more established as a solid record. Casino starts this off. It’s a brilliant acoustic indie track whose lyrics tell a story, “After our life in the casino/We know that gambling is a joke/To say I’m not here for the money/Is just another word for ‘broke’/One room for us/One room for both of us/One room for us is not available.” There’s a solemn side to this song but it’s a beautifully crafted track with the simple acoustic rhythm guitar and softly sung lyrics.
Seven Hour Drive spices the album up again with clear Nada Surf influences being heard on it. The many distorted layers on this track accompanied by the vocals sounds very much like this song has snuck off a Nada Surf record. It’s a song for summer with the chorus, “Our love is a seven hour drive/Seven hour drive/Seven hour drive to love” sticking in your head.
Steppin’ In is another acoustic track with those string accompaniments reappearing making this a dramatic and sad number. There are folk influences to be heard in this track. The slightly un-tuneful vocals also help to make this song sound particularly lonesome and sad. It’s another beautifully crafted number really showcasing how diverse The Notwist are as a band, especially as the next track, Lineri, introduces electronics to the album. Lineri is a chilled, electronic track which is entirely different from any of the previous songs on album. The synthesised sounds allow you to drift off into another world while the drum beat ensures you stay aware of the rhythm and consequently you remain actively listening.
They Follow Me ends the album. The synthesised sounds play a huge part on this song but at times, it can sound a little bit like noises off a Gameboy game. The synths have been made to sound like string accompaniments to fade out on which gives a nice symmetry with the earlier Into Another Tune. It’s such a gentle, exposing track to end the album on, “I couldn’t help myself/But run away/Those hands/Ruin everything/But I’m not afraid/Of no-one else…”, that it leaves its audience feeling slightly nostalgic and thoughtful.
Close To The Glass sounds like a compilation record. It’s sporadic, unusual and incredibly hard to pin down genre-wise, as The Notwist will always be. It’s unusual for bands to be able to be so diverse, sounding at times like a completely different band. The Notwist are brilliant even if a little too diverse at times. Being unable to define them increases their likeability while at the same time, it separates them. They remain unfamiliar which some people will love and others will hate. Some people like routine and comfort and if that is what you’re looking for, don’t turn to The Notwist. They will never fail to surprise or astound you at their abilities to intertwine many genres. The Notwist’s Close To The Glass are for those who like change, like to feel uncomfortable and ultimately are looking for something entirely breath-taking and genre defying.
Close To The Glass is out on February 24 via City Slang.